A Goofy Guy
One evening I stood in a huge room with about fifty other people, in our meditation Commune in Poona, India. We were all experienced, intense, dedicated seekers-after-our-own-truth.
The facilitator of the group asked us to begin walking around the room, looking at each other; we were to notice if anyone sparked judgment in us. When we met someone we had some censorious feeling towards we were to stop in front of them.
I walked…stepping carefully, aware of my body, my inner hush with this scary assignment. My hands went behind my back, my slippered feet felt the floor beneath the thin soles. When I passed some people – a woman with a large, encompassing energy, perhaps; or a slight, friendly girl I have worked alongside – my heart felt a nice outgoing bouquet of rays coming from it and so I did not stop. Towards a man I might feel, for example, some longing…so I don’t stop there either.
Now, here coming towards me slowly is a fellow…I’ve seen him around for years. I know he’s Dutch; and he is…well, disagreebly goofy in my opinion. He is tall and thin, has small wide-open eyes with curly star-spiders of lashes, behind thick glasses; his freckled nose looks like it is being pushed up with a finger. His girl-full lips are parted perpetually and his square white teeth show slightly. His expression, it seems to me, is startled, silly, vacuous. I feel a distinct stab of energy coming out of my 3rd chakra, the solar plexus; I know that this means I have a judgment towards him. I slow and stop in front of him. He gazes at me with his helpless, stubborn, startled eyes….
We are now asked to tell the person opposite us what judgment we have about her or him. I feel a sinking in my tummy…awful….I don’t want to hurt him….But I trust the process; every process I have ever done in this place was in the service of love, of freedom. So I take a deep breath and say, “I see you as…goofy. Silly-looking. I think you are…unattractive.”
He breathes, his gaze not leaving my face. I’m standing here and inside I am feeling my oppositeness to him: for am I not sexy, accomplished, with long lush fine brown hair and big mascara’d eyes and snakey hips, and lots of mean dance moves in them? Am I not recognized for my talents as a psychic therapist? Aren’t I…groovy? I mean…?
These self-reassurings go on at a level below conscious thought, a sort of flattening-down of the anxiety I feel facing him. A very habitual inner riff, I’d know if I were able to notice it.
But now the group leader is saying, “Close your eyes…look inside. Where is the judgment coming from?”
I close my eyes and it’s there – right there. There just isn’t a moment’s gap, the picture is immediately in front of me.
I’m ten years old and I’m on the playground at Grant Elementary School. I’m an outsider, an outcast to an appreciable degree. The popular girls are over there, by the jungle gym, under the pepper tree; and each is combing the hair of the boy of her choice, with the boy’s pocket comb kept ever handy for taming that lock of over-eye auburn or blond. That sexy way they have, the boys, of tossing their heads to get the lock out of an eye, then whipping out the comb and swiping it through the hair so carefully carelessly….drives the girls so wild that they’ve taken to combing it for them….
I have no boy to comb, though I wish I did…but I am the strange girl, and many are my sins: My family are poor. That’s #1.
I wear hand-me-downs that don’t suit me; while the most popular girl, Debby, has a perfect wardrobe of preppie shirts and A-line skirts, due to the fact that her mother works at a clothing store. That’s Sin #2: my old wool jumpers and baggy dresses.
I have long, straggly, uneven, pointy hair which crackles with static in the desert air. The other girls have coiffed flips. That’s my Sin #3.
Sin #4: I write poetry! Ugh! I have read it aloud to hapless girls at recess! That is soo not okay! Ick!! How embarrassing to listen to! Love poetry!! About some skinny little boy with a swash of shiny hair!
Sin #5: I am too smart. This is really uncool, and deserves punishment.
Sin #6: I bring, sometimes, soup in a thermos for lunch on a cold day, instead of the absolutely obligatory sandwich, apple, individual packet of chips or fritos (a baggie of them taken from a bigger bag won’t do); carrot or celery sticks, and cookie. And as I sit at the picnic table in the schoolyard with the other kids at lunch and gaze sorrowfully at that thermos (and they are all looking at it too, and making upward lines on the uncool-o-graph) I am on the verge of tears thinking of my poor workworn mother saying lovingly and anxiously, “Now, this’ll be nice on such a cold day!”
Sin #7: I have crooked teeth. A turned-to-the-side canine with a gap beside it – a particularly sharp canine – earns me the nickname “Dracula’s Daughter.’
Sin #8: When the teacher asks if anyone knows the answer to a question I wave my hand around in the air a whole bunch! Every time! Can’t prevent it, though I try, having been tormented for this before.
And Sin #9: Once I had no clean underwear and my mother told me I’d have to wear a pair of the boys’. I knew this was a horrible idea but she was my mother so I obeyed. Then I forgot I had it on and at recess I was merrily going round and round the bar (I was good at the bar) and some other kids saw!! And began to sing, “Katy wears boys’ underwear! Katy wears boys’ underwear!” in nasty, taunting voices.
In short, I am a goofy, snaggle-toothed, unsexy-to-the-max kid. And I suffer….and grow up to cool/sexify myself as hard as I can! Oh yeah!
The group leader asks us to open our eyes and share with the person opposite us what we’ve discovered. So I tell the young man about it…how I see that I am projecting on him that thing, that status, that caused me so much pain long ago, and that I therefore want to disown.
He looks quite different to me now. He looks like a…being. Not a status; he looks like a heart/soul/body with depth and sensitivity and richness; an alive sensate holy trembling ripple in the calm sea of the Beyond That Is Here. In short, he looks dignified and…beautiful. Here, breathing, poised, doing his best to face himself; graceful and lusty and soft and unknowing. Not a thing, but a process, a verb, a growingness.
And I tell him this, and thank him.
How do school children know so thoroughly how each other is “supposed” to be? What primate hell is this?
And, oh lord god help us (but I think it’s by and large up to us, since she’s no doubt been trying all this time and we don’t listen): we go on doing the same thing all our lives. Oh yes.
Wake up! Wake up!